Spanish police officers stand guard as people hold Spanish flags during a gathering in favour of a unified Spain in Barcelona, Spain, on Wednesday. Picture: REUTERS
Spanish police officers stand guard as people hold Spanish flags during a gathering in favour of a unified Spain in Barcelona, Spain, on Wednesday. Picture: REUTERS

Brussels — The EU executive has called again for the Spanish government and Catalan authorities to open dialogue to defuse the confrontation over calls for Catalonia’s independence.

"It’s time to talk," European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans told the European Parliament as the EU legislature opened a debate on the situation in which 800 people have been injured.

Reflecting the cautiously balanced tone of a commission statement on Monday after images of police violence against voters marked an unauthorised independence referendum on Sunday, Timmermans backed the legal position of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy but renewed a call for dialogue.

"Respect for the rule of law is not optional, it is fundamental," said the Dutch deputy to EU CE Jean-Claude Juncker.

"If the law does not give you what you want, you can oppose the law. You can work to change the law, but you cannot ignore the law. It is fundamental that the constitutions of every one of our member states are upheld and respected. The regional government of Catalonia has chosen to ignore the law when organising the referendum," he said before turning to urge restraint by the conservative government in Madrid.

Describing images of Spanish police clubbing women trying to vote as "saddening", he said: "Violence does not solve anything in politics ... however, it is of course a duty for any government to uphold the rule of law and this sometimes does require the proportionate use of force."

Timmermans insisted the matter was an internal one for Spain: "That is why the commission has called on all relevant actors to move quickly from confrontation to dialogue. All lines of communication must stay open. It’s time to talk to find a way out of the impasse, working within the constitutional order of Spain."

Reuters

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